RAILWAY services and customer care are reported to be declining. The condition of stations in the Dhaka–Narayanganj section speak of the deplorable situation. The photographs that New Age published on Saturday show make-shift shops crowding the station, locked toilets and untidy waiting room at the Gandaria station. Passengers who use the stations allege that getting to the station has become almost impossible because of indiscriminate dumping of municipal waste and illegal constructions that have surrounded the area. They also complain that trains never run on schedule and rarely there are any railway staff to attend to stranded passengers. Toilets and waiting rooms, in some cases, remain locked and passengers need to pay for access. The Kamlapur to Narayangaj trains have five stoppages, but the station at one of them at Shyampur no longer exists. Passengers are, therefore, forced to get into trains at the place in two minutes, which is risky. As there has been no well-coordinated social welfare programmes for the floating population, they often flock the stations, with adverse impact on passengers. The current state of stations in the Dhaka–Narayanganj section only display the government’s prolonged negligence to the sector.
The situation with stations across the country is not much different. The Bangladesh Railway had 467 stations but 104 of them have been closed. Most stations are built in the pre-independence period and have not since then been renovated. An erratic schedule, declining customer care coupled with uneven investment in the road transport sector threw many stations out of operation. The case of the first station, Jagotee, is a case in example. At least eight trains pass through the 156-year-old station, three kilometres off the Kushtia town, but none but a few stone wagons stop there. The station may have lost passengers because of road infrastructure development, but an active and operational route and a station can be a good alternative to goods transport. In order to ensure road infrastructure durability, most developed countries maintain and use railway for heavy load movement. But successive governments in Bangladesh have invested very little in railway expansion since 1947. Its resources were depleted, land was illegally occupied and most of its rolling stock are in a decrepit state.
It is assuring that the authorities are planning to renovate the stations in the Dhaka–Narayangaj route, but the government needs to evenly focus on other sections too. The declining quality services of the Bangladesh Railway cannot be addressed with piecemeal, isolated projects. It is time that the government modernised the railway, with further investment in lines, signalling, rolling stock, maintenance and human resources. The government must also purge railway policies of the flaws that have led the sector to such a deplorable state.
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